Background: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection is the single most frequent infectious complication in renal transplant recipients. Because no CMV-prophylaxis is given and ganciclovir is used only as deferred therapy for CMV disease at our center, we have been able to study the natural course of CMV infections. The aim was to assess risk factors for CMV infection and disease and thus identify subgroups of patients likely to benefit from CMV prophylaxis or preemptive therapy.
Methods: Between October 1994 and July 1997, 477 consecutive renal transplant recipients (397 first transplants and 80 retransplants) were included in the study. The patients were followed prospectively for 3 months with serial measurements of CMV pp65 antigen for monitoring activity of CMV infections.
Results: The incidence of CMV infections in first transplants was 68% in D+R- and D+/-R+ serostatus groups, whereas the incidence of CMV disease was higher in D+R- (56%) than in D+/-R+ (20%, P<0.001). No difference in severity of CMV disease in D+R- and D+/-R+ was seen except for an increased incidence of hepatitis in primary infections. One of 14 deaths could be associated with CMV disease in a seropositive recipient. Cox regression analysis showed that rejection (RR 2.5, P<0.01) and serostatus group D+R- (RR 3.9, P<0.001) were significant risk factors for development of CMV disease. The maximum CMV pp65 antigen count had significant correlation to disease only in CMV seropositive recipients, P<0.001. Conclusion. Renal transplant recipients can safely be given deferred ganciclovir therapy for CMV disease if they are intensively monitored for CMV infection. Patients with primary CMV infection (D+R-), CMV infected patients undergoing anti-rejection therapy and R+ patients with high CMV pp65 counts seem to have a particular potential for benefit from preemptive anti-CMV-therapy.